Antecedents and correlates of test anxiety

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Personality




Antecedents and correlates of the debilitating effects of academic evaluation were explored in this correlational investigation of 250 college students using newly developed and existing self-report measures. Questionnaires measuring Julian Rotter's Social Learning Theory construct of minimal goal level discrepancy (these are essentially measures of academic dissatisfaction), and I. G. Sarason's notion of test anxiety were used along with measures of perceived parental pressure. Independent validation of the self-reports was obtained from the roommates of the participants. The Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale was included to detect any socially desirable content in the new scales. Exploratory questions seeking to identify other sources of high minimal goal level discrepancy and test anxiety were also included. The most significant findings from the study indicated that females who were dissatisfied with their academic performance experienced test anxiety, and felt their parents pressured them to perform well academically. Males who perceived maternal pressure experienced test anxiety, but reported no academic dissatisfaction. The participants' roommates tended to corroborate the results. The roommate test anxiety measure was strongly related to the Sarason Test Anxiety Scale and therefore serves as (possibly the only) independent validation for the latter measure.^ Relationships of exploratory questions with the questionnaires above suggested that achieving good grades for the purpose of pleasing adult authority figures (parents and teachers) and peer competition are possibly two important influences on students' attitudes regarding academic achievement and may be a source for further investigation of antecedents of test anxiety and high minimal goal level discrepancy. The overall results of this investigation, although not definitive, suggest that parents should think carefully before placing pressure on their children to achieve beyond what may be the child's maximum ability. To do so may be to risk what is probably most parents' ultimate concern, their child's emotional well-being. ^